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Ask anyone who isn’t a regular runner, and they’ll probably say they avoid running because they dislike it. Yet, if you asked their six-year-old self, they’d likely sprint off to show how much they loved running back then. So what changed? Why do so many adults develop a strong aversion to running?

I can sum it up in one word: injuries. Even those who love running often face injuries that halt their routine for 1-2 weeks nearly every year. Some find themselves stuck in a cycle of injury, recovery, rebuilding, only to get injured again. Eventually, many give up and turn to lower-impact exercises (once regular ibuprofen no longer suffices).

I’ve been a reluctant runner for most of my adult life. I started in college to shed the “Freshman 15” but encountered various lower leg injuries along the way. I shifted to cycling for years until I entered triathlon training. Despite my efforts, injuries persisted whenever my mileage exceeded 10-15 miles per week. When I stopped competing in triathlons, I stopped running altogether.

Today, however, I’ve rediscovered the pure joy of running. Few activities match its natural, primal, and efficient essence. But my approach has evolved, and it took effort to reach this point. Before delving into what changed for me, here’s a list of injuries I’ve dealt with over the years:

  • Achilles tendonitis
  • ITB syndrome
  • Trochanteric bursitis
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis/fasciosis
  • Metatarsalgia
  • Patellar tracking issues/knee pain

Working with patients at my clinic, I’ve encountered many other running-related injuries. Through these experiences, I’ve identified several principles that helped me prevent injuries and reignite my enjoyment of running:

  • The first 8-12 weeks of running should be viewed as “strength training” for your hips, legs, feet, etc.  This is probably the most important take-away from this brief article.  Though you may be getting a bit of cardiovascular benefit in the first few months of a running program, the most important adaptation that your body is making is remodeling your tendons, ligaments, muscles, etc. to act like a spring.  Normal daily activities like walking and going up and down stairs do not involve the ballistic spring loading of the soft tissues (commonly thought of as impact), and this is the driver for most running-related injuries. For a program to help with this first part of a running program, see this blog article “Return To Running“.
  • Poor technique. We all know it when we see it.  Some people look supple and fluid when they run, and others look like they are tearing their body apart or simply running on an injury. Take a small error and multiply it by 4500 reps/hour times how many hours per week and small errors end up magnified to the point of overwhelming your ability to adapt to the stress.
  • Choosing shoes that are bad for your feet.  The modern shoe dilemma is beyond the scope of this short article, but for a brief primer on footwear and how it shapes your feet, please visit our friends at
  • Lack of Self-Care.  There are a number of self-myofascial release and mobilization techniques that should regularly be used by runners, but most runners do an incomplete or irregular program of self-care.  This often eventually leads to injury as the body accumulates microtrauma over the weeks, months and years.  For an example of a mobility routine for the lower leg, see this video on the multi-directional calf stretch.

So what is an injured runner to do? The same thing as anybody that wants to improve their outcome in a certain area: seek help from experts!  No two runners are alike, and the most important factor in returning to running safely is unwinding the complex biomechanical issues that may have built up, leading to your injury cycle.  Once you are “fixed,” you begin the process of re-learning to run, starting with loading your tissues appropriately with the right training, combined with proper post-workout mobility work.

If this sounds like something that you would like to do, I encourage you to contact us for a consultation. We can look at your running style, evaluate your gait, and help you figure out what you need to do in order to return to running pain-free.  Re-discovering the simple joy of running pain-free is worth it!